Do people have some rights just by being human
"Has been a lifesaver so many times!"
- Catherine Rampell, student @ University of Washington
"Exactly the help I needed."
- Jennifer Hawes, student @ San Jose State
"The best place for brainstorming ideas."
- Michael Majchrowicz, student @ University of Kentucky
Do people have some rights just by being human
Do people have some rights just by being human?
This question is concerned with whether or not it is possible for \'natural rights\' to exist. \'Natural\' rights are rights which we have \'naturally\' as humans, in other words rights which we inherently have, just by being human. A large problem with answering this question is that of defining the term \'rights\', a question to which the answer has been very elusive throughout the history of political analysis. The following investigation into the possibility of \'natural rights\' will begin with an attempt to create a working definition of a rights, and will then proceed to examine the essence of humanity and the roots of what is a \'right\', to see if it is possible to have a \'right\' simply by being human. Questions concerning society, freedom and morality will all be seen to arise, and will be dealt with accordingly.
A most important attempt at defining rights is Richard Dworkin\'s metaphor of \'Rights as Trumps\'. This is essentially comparing a rights to a trump in a card game, one which overrides what would otherwise have one the hand. Put in a political scenario, this metaphor functions as thus: Society may have and hold a set of rules and laws imposing on and restricting individuals behaviour. A right is something to which the individual is entitled that will be ensured over and above the civil laws and rules of the land. The existence of these rights is a way that individuals have a degree of sovereignty over the state, where civil laws are the tools of the state\'s sovereignty over individuals. This balance should create a situation which is morally justifiable.
A problem with this doctrine when it comes to \'natural rights\', however, is the reliance on the existence of society to provide a definition of a right. A \'natural right\' is one which should be able to be derived without the existence of a society, since it should be inherently clear from our humanity. It is possible to conceive of a situation in which a human being exists outside of society, indeed many philosophies are based on there having been a pre-social period of human existence. Although this is dubitable, it is important to justify a natural right through examining a single human being, since it is in the essence of humanity where the \'natural right\' must be found.
Another problem with this attempt at a definition of rights, is that it puts little emphasis of the importance of morality when making statements about rights. Dworkin\'s thesis defines a right without reference to any morals, yet any judgement over rights is almost always a moral judgement. It shall be seen that any investigation of rights boils down to a moral investigation, and this presents significant problems. These shall be tackled at a later stage, but first this analysis will see how deep it is possible to penetrate the question of \'natural rights\' without drifting into moral arguments.
The historically most significant way of justifying \'natural rights\' is through statement such as \'Men are born free\'. This kind of statement, although not explicit in stating a \'right\' as such, nevertheless has been the root of a number of political institutions, such as the French and American revolutions. The statement above implies an inherent equality and freedom in mankind, and this has been taken by scholars to means that it implies certain \'natural rights\'. Equality is seen from the implication of statements such as the one above that there is no reason for society to arbitrarily assign a certain individual higher status - from the colour of their skin, gender, or situation into which they were born.
Possible objections to the use of statements such as these are rarely publicly voiced, as they would seem to clash with what seems to be the basis of any just society, yet it is not difficult to find problems with assumptions like \'men are born equal\'. Firstly, and perhaps most significantly, there is little empirical evidence to suggest that this statement is true. If anything, evidence shows that humans have widely varying attributes such as intelligence, physical ability, beauty, etc. Also, it could be argued that
View Full Essay
Libertarian theory, Law, Rights, Philosophy of life, Natural and legal rights, Ethics, Philosophy of human rights, Human rights
More Free Essays Like This